Little Stickshift Trucks: 1993 Ford Ranger vs 1998 Chevy S-10

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Good morning, and welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! This week, I actually remembered to do the Two-Door Tuesday thing, so we’re going to look at a pair of compact standard-cab pickups – you know, the kind of trucks we all want, but nobody makes anymore because people stopped buying them. But before we get there, let’s look at our retro-mobiles from yesterday:

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The Bug takes the win! I’m guessing the manual had a lot to do with it. All I know is, based on the comments, if either VW or Chrysler (I mean, Stellantis) ever figured out how to make a car run on pure refined vitriol, they’d solve the world’s energy problems. Lots of folks were, shall we say, not fans of either choice.

But you all like little trucks, right? Especially the good old body-on-frame single-cabbers with manuals? Good. I’ve got a pair of them for you to check out, both in the Los Angeles area.

1993 Ford Ranger – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 or 4.0 liter (not specified) OHV V6, 5 speed manual, RWD

Location: La Crescenta, CA

Odometer reading: 200,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sure does

Ford’s compact Ranger was the universal default small truck for, what, three decades? This little wonder has hauled mountains, half a ton at a time, to the moon and back, thousands of times over. It has towed trailers full of landscaping equipment, kept the beaches safe, and just plain bombed around as only a good little truck can, for gazillions of miles.

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This looks like a fairly basic Ranger, with a vinyl bench seat, rubber floors, and those bare-bones 14 inch wheels that always look too small on these. It does have an optional V6 engine, but the seller doesn’t specify whether it’s the 3 liter Vulcan or the 4 liter Cologne variety. It is also equipped with air conditioning – though there’s no mention of whether it works – and a “Berliner.” I believe the seller is confusing a truck accessory with the speech JFK gave at SEMA in which he declared, “Ich bin ein bedliner.”

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One thing this truck does have going for it is possibly Ford’s best color of the 1990s: teal. It looked good on Rangers, Escorts, Mustangs; hell, even the Windstar looked better in this color. It also has a period-correct Pioneer tape deck. The labels are worn off most of the buttons, but it should still play your Hootie & The Blowfish cassette just fine.

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The seller says it runs well but “needs minor work.” You’d have to ask the seller what that means. It does look like a solid little truck, and if a test drive and an inspection don’t turn up anything major, it looks like a good deal.

1998 Chevrolet S-10 – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter OHV inline 4, 5 speed manual, RWD

Location: Long Beach, CA

Odometer reading: 280,000 miles

Runs/drives? Indeed it does

The Ranger’s crosstown rival, Chevy’s S-10 and its twin the GMC S-15/Sonoma, also sold like hotcakes, but often seemed set up for play rather than work. Even this plain white S-10, part of a fleet, looks sportier than most Rangers, especially when equipped with what are the best-looking factory alloy wheels of the ’90s and 2000s.

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This S-10 has a decidedly working-class engine, a 2.2 liter pushrod four-cylinder inherited from Chevy’s Cavalier. It’s not the most refined or brawny powerplant, but it is sturdy. This truck is also equipped with air conditioning, but the seller says it doesn’t work.

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This S-10 is also a little nicer inside than the Ranger above, with such sumptuous luxuries as carpet and cloth upholstery. It has what I guess you’d call a split bench seat, but I would hope they didn’t intend to actually make someone sit in the middle.

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This truck has a heap of miles on it – 280,000- but the seller says it still runs well, and the tags are current. It’s a little banged up, but not bad at all. There’s no mention of what sort of fleet it was part of, but I think it’s safe to assume it spent its life in the Los Angeles basin, gathering those miles one stoplight and on-ramp at a time. Its price feels a little steep to me, but maybe that’s just where the market is these days.

Little trucks like this are supremely useful, and sorely missed. Luckily, they wear like anvils, and are simple enough to fix by yourself, so the remaining ones should be around a long time. Either one of these would make a good little runabout work truck; which one will it be?

 

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43 Responses

  1. That Ranger would be at least 2x the price in the Midwest because not rusty. Might be worth a flight to sunny California to shop for a Shitbox. I will pick the Ranger, I bet it is a four banger. I had a similar with no air, manual windows and no PS. Loved it.

    Don’t know as much about the S10, bit the Rangers seem to live on like cockroaches, and they seem like they are the last true work truck sold in the ‘states.

  2. As the owner of a very comparable 97 XL Ranger, that vinyl bench seat is probably ungodly uncomfortable and worn. That being said, if this ride is going to be for home depot/dump runs (like mine), the vinyl floor is a major plus. The S Dime will most certainly be more comfy but they never feel like a truck in the same way that Rangers do (this could be a pro or con). In this battle, I’m pocketing the $1000, getting the Ranger and using the extra dough for wheels and a better seat off of Craigslist/junkyard.

    1. >>they never feel like a truck in the same way that Rangers do

      It’s the seating position and maybe the overall height. I delivered auto parts in college and often drove Rangers and S-10s of this vintage one right after the other. The S-10’s always felt much more carlike.

  3. Never owned either, but for me the Ranger always felt more … honest? The V6 and possibly working AC outweigh the need for a seat cover, which I hope can be had for much less than the price difference.

  4. I voted Ranger, because I love Rangers – had a 1-option ’97 XL and currently an ’02 FX4. But I am pretty sceptical this one is a V6. It’s certainly possible, V6s were standalone options on XLs back in 1993, but between the 195 width tires, vinyl bench, and lack of an underhood picture, I’m thinking this one is actually the 4-cylinder.

  5. Nice job working in the JFK speech!

    I’ve had both these trucks, in extended cab form. That GM 2.2 is dangerously slow, even with the super fun manual. Flat out all the time. It’s reliable, but the ignition wires are a damn pain, the AC won’t be able to get fixed, and the heater core replacement is something I will never, ever, ever do again.

    The Ford will be much easier to fix up in the interior, and a quieter ride once you do it. Only advantage the GM really has is better gas mileage.

  6. Ive owned one of each in the past. A 96 ranger 2wd 4cyl 5-speed extended cab, and an 01 s-10 4cyl 5-speed extended cab. The Ford is the better truck for truck stuff and is very tough, but the Chevy has a nicer, more comfy and ergonomic interior (also softer ride, but feels way less rugged).

    If I had to choose one of these 2, it’d be the Chevy just because its in much better shape. But either one is really a good bet.

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